Posted: November 22, 2013 By Harvey Steiman
When I could not get to Australia for the Henschke winery's massive 40-vintage tasting of its signature wine earlier this year, the iconic Shiraz Hill of Grace, Stephen Henschke offered to bring a few of the older vintages to me when he came for the New York Wine Experience.
Here are my scores and tasting notes on the Henschke Hill of Grace 1973, 1986, 1990, 2001 and 2008.
Posted: October 23, 2013 By Kasey Carpenter
Posted: October 16, 2013
Posted: September 3, 2013 By Harvey Steiman
Posted: August 31, 2013
Posted: August 31, 2013 By Harvey Steiman
Posted: July 3, 2013 By Harvey Steiman
Posted: May 2, 2013 By Augustus Weed
Posted: April 5, 2013
Posted: March 14, 2013
Posted: February 20, 2013 By Harvey Steiman
Over a casual dinner of sardine chips, pasta with bergamot and steak with chimichurri and mushrooms at the new Rich Table in San Francisco, Wolf Blass' Chris Hatcher brought me up to date on what his end of the company had been up to. Never among the biggest wines on the block, Wolf Blass has always aimed for balance and drinkability without losing the ripe flavors Australia can do so well.
We tasted three examples of what's coming next. The first wine encapsulated in a single sip the overarching trend in Australian wine today. Wolf Blass Chardonnay Adelaide Hills White Label 2010, silky in texture, graceful, expressive but not at all weighty, tasted like biting into a raw heirloom apple, getting complexity more from maturing on lees in older barrels than from oak. The first word that came to mind was "deft."
Posted: February 1, 2013 By Augustus Weed
Posted: January 17, 2013 By Harvey Steiman
It looked as if it were just going to be another trade tasting, a collection of importers sampling familiar wines to the trade. Wine Australia, which promotes Aussie wines around the world, expected about 150 sommeliers, retailers and wine media to the event in San Francisco Monday. More than 351 accepted the invitation.
The buzz there was palpable. Imagine, San Francisco sommeliers, notorious for seeking the most obscure wines they could find, excitedly sipping Margaret River Chardonnays, Hunter Valley Sémillons, even a Mornington Peninsula Dolcetto. And yes, Barossa Valley Shiraz. In recent years, as Australia's fortunes took a hit, one could hear crickets chirping at this annual event. Not this time.
Posted: December 27, 2012 By Ben O'Donnell
At the Penfolds Nuriootpa winery in Barossa, you can crush 22,000 tons of grapes. At Chateau Ste.-Michelle, 2.8 million cases of wine go out the door every year. If you are Peter Gago or Bob Bertheu, head winemakers at Penfolds and Ste.-Michelle, respectively, how do you even process and track so much stuff, let alone make it good?
"That's why God created Microsoft Excel, I guess," replied Bertheu. I asked four winemakers who head up large-to-massive operations that produce dozens of different cuvées in all price ranges, from $10 quaffers on up to the storied $600 Penfolds Grange. In my previous post on the subject, I gave a sense of the scale of the task and wrote about how the four keep tabs on their growers and grapes through harvest. Now I'll explain how they juggle as many as 52 different wines at once.
Posted: December 11, 2012 By Harvey Steiman
It takes a certain understanding of the peculiarly Australian sense of humor to appreciate why a documentary tracing the story of Australian wine in past few decades would be titled Chateau Chunder: A Wine Revolution. The reference to a Monty Python sketch from 1972 ridicules Aussie wines with a vulgarity that would involve tossing one's cookies.
Self-deprecating, often sharp, the dry Aussie sense of humor is one reason I enjoy knowing the country's winemakers. They are, for the most part, not full of themselves. Their effort goes into the product and spreading the word about it. Most Aussie wineries, for example, are anonymous-looking sheds, not architectural palaces. It's the wines that matter.
Posted: November 28, 2012 By Harvey Steiman
In Wine Spectator's Top 100 Wines of 2012, a familiar name stands at No. 3. Two Hands Shiraz Barossa Valley Bella's Garden has made it into the Top 100 eight times, including four years in the Top 10. What's astounding is that the wine has existed only since the 2001 vintage. Recently, Two Hands proprietor Michael Twelftree offered to taste all 10 vintages of Bella's Garden with me, blind. Here are my notes and unofficial scores.
Posted: November 27, 2012 By Tyson Stelzer
Posted: November 6, 2012 By Harvey Steiman
Until about 20 years ago, Riesling was Australia's go-to white wine. It never made much an impact here in the United States, where Riesling from anywhere was a tough sell, but in Australia it seemed as if everyone drank it regularly, from punters to pundits. At least until Chardonnay rode its worldwide popularity to replace Riesling in Australian wine drinkers' glasses.
The good news for those of us who appreciate the clarity, ageability and zing of a good Aussie Riesling is that the grape never went away. In fact, it has become a darling of sommeliers and retailers here in America who decry oak and high alcohol in white wines. In the same way as two other personal favorites, Spain's Albariños and Italy's Falanghinas, dry Aussie Rieslings offer piquancy and charm to meld well with seafood, which I eat as often as I can.
Posted: October 23, 2012 By Augustus Weed
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